Andhra Pradesh plunged into gloom Thursday as it became known that Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy had died in a helicopter crash in the dense Nallamalla forests.
People cried inconsolably in the state secretariat, the chief minister's camp office and Gandhi Bhavan, the headquarters of the ruling Congress party.
"He is my God. I can't believe he is no more," wailed a Congress party worker.
"He gave life to several people through Rajiv Arogyasri (health insurance scheme for poor). Nobody had imagined he will lose his life this way," said another Congress worker.
After frantic search for the missing helicopter for 24 hours, the Indian Air Force (IAF) traced the wreckage on top of a hill in the forests in Kurnool district.
The chopper was found in a mangled state with the bodies of the chief minister, his special secretary P Subrahmanyam, chief security officer ASC Wesley, Group Captain SK Bhatia and Captain MS Reddy.